July 6, 2022

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Surprising Cowboys defender makes NFL’s top 10…

3 min read
Surprising Cowboys defender makes NFL's top 10...


In recent weeks, NFL.com has been releasing some top 10 lists in varying categories using Next Gen Stats. Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons was named a top 10 disruptor for the 2021 season above names like Aaron Donald.

A new list was made deciphering the top 10 coverage players of 2021. When thinking about defensive backs who excelled on the Cowboys last season, the first name that comes to mind for most people is likely league interception leader Trevon Diggs. However, Diggs was not on this list.

Instead, it was teammate and fellow cornerback Anthony Brown.

Despite many remembering Brown for his highly penalized game against the Las Vegas Raiders on Thanksgiving, the cornerback was No. 6. In order from 10 to 1, the players were Xavien Howard, Jamel Dean, Levi Wallace, Cameron Dantzler, Brown, Kevin Byard, Patrick Surtain II, Rasul Douglas, J.C. Jackson, and A.J. Terrell.

Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown makes NFL’s top 10 coverage players list over Trevon Diggs

Here are the exact parameters of how players could qualify:

In order to qualify, players needed a minimum of 300 coverage snaps, 40 targets as the nearest defender and a catch rate allowed below expectation (meaning they’re consistently breaking up passes that were likely to be completions). Also, qualifiers needed a negative targeted expected points added (a metric used to quantify how much an individual player impacts an opponents’ scoring potential and the most important metric used in this exercise), a tight-window percentage of at least 20 (15 for linebackers, due to the nature of their position as second-level run defenders and coverage defenders) and a maximum passer rating allowed of 80.

Now, we all know that Diggs has come under fire for getting burned in coverage. While he did lead the league in interceptions, many criticized him for taking too many risks and giving up several yards in doing so. Even though Diggs excelled in passer rating allowed and ballhawk rate, he didn’t qualify for the list because he didn’t meet the 20% “tight-window” percentage margin (he only had 16.3%).

Nick Shook, the writer of the article, even admitted that he was surprised to see Brown’s name. However, the stats and numbers on the whole paint a different picture for Brown than what we saw on the surface. Diggs’s counterpart saw more targets as the closest defender than any other player in 2021.

Even though he had a high number of targets, Brown’s tight-window rate was more than 28 percent. He also had a completions allowed percentage of just 49.6%. His passer rating allowed was 75.8, catch rate below expectation was -6.4%, average separation was 2.6 yards, and targeted expected points added were -19.

While many eyes were certainly on Diggs and it’s hard not to remember the blunders caused by Brown, these Next Gen Stats prove he was doing impressive work that may have gone unnoticed. This was certainly a pleasant surprise to me given I’ve openly criticized Brown’s play in the past.

Surprising Cowboys defender makes NFL top 10 coverage players list